RSN Canvaswork Course – Day 4

Friday morning came all too soon. I could get used to waking up, having breakfast and going to Hampton Court every day to work. Whether I was working at the RSN as a student or washing dishes in one of the cafes on the grounds of the palace, just walking though those gates every morning would lift my heart.

As usual all the students arrived and got settled after saying hello to newcomers and greeting those we’d met before. Many of the students come weekly on a certain day so they get to know their fellow students and the tutors who teach on that day of the week very well. I can see the advantage in doing this: the same tutors weekly and lots of time to do your stitching homework between classes.  On this Friday I was pleased to see Owen  Davies, whom I met this past summer when I was visiting the RSN.

I was coming along nicely on my green tent stitching for the pine needles and continued to work on that during the morning, blending greens and greys together to my heart’s content.

After lunch, Owen sat down to talk with me about the stitch choices and to take a good, long look at what I’d done so far. He took one look at the bark on the trunk of the tree and explained what I’d done wrong and why. When I explained that the stitch was “three holes long” he kindly told me that in canvaswork we count threads, not holes.  An “Ah-Ha moment!”  occurred and the diagrams were much easier to read.

Since I now understood what I’d done wrong, I removed all the stitching I’d done on the trunk. Owen then returned and demonstrated how to do the raised spot stitch correctly. He used three strands of Appleton’s wool in the needle which made it VERY difficult to get through the hole but, with practice, I got better.

We talked a bit about which stitches I would use where and he thought most of the stitch choices would work. He gave me some very concrete information for choosing stitches for certain ares. One of the most important considerations is to think about the repeat pattern of the stitch and whether or not it will fit comfortably into the space you are filling. For example, the small, oddly shaped areas of sky would work better in basket weave than in cashmere stitch.

To make a “complete” section of cashmere stitch I would need to have two vertical threads and three horizontal threads over which to stitch. I understand that I could leave out part of the stitch but then that would ruin the pretty texture of the very stitch itself.


Using basket stitch would mean that getting into all those little space between the snow and the needles wouldn’t be difficult because I’d just do one stitch. Basket weave goes over two threads both horizontally and vertically but if I leave one out it doesn’t make any difference as the repeat is really only one stitch wide and long.


It was great to understand a bit more about how to choose stitches and on what criteria the choices can be made. We also spent quite a bit of time choosing the colors for the sky. Owen has a strong color sense and was very particular about which shades of grey and dark French blue would work best.

At the RSN Hampton Court there are complete ranges of DMC and Anchor stranded cotton and Appleton’s wool colors. This makes color choices easy to make since you can look then and there and decide what will work best. The RSN asks that you keep track of what you’ve taken – on the honour system – and you pay for what you take at the end.

So how did my piece look at the end of the week? Like this!


I’m home now and working a little every day on this piece. I am really beginning to love canvaswork. I like the texture of all the different stitches. I like choosing which stitch to do where and learning the new stitches. And I can’t wait to get to Bristol and learn more!



3 thoughts on “RSN Canvaswork Course – Day 4

  1. You have a great deal more patience than I do, I must say.:-) I would have given up on day two. I do not care for embroidery styles that are that fussy and fiddley. I just want to embroider and not have to count threads and re-do a bunch because I miscounted or whatever. Then, I would have HATED all the fussiness in it instead of loving it.

    I hope you have fun finishing your corner of the pagoda and garden. 🙂

  2. Really enjoyed reading about your discussion of stitches, stitch placement and color with Owen. Especially when learning a new technique the face-to-face with a patient expert is invaluable. Like you, I find counted stitching a challenge, but am learning to enjoy it. It does take a lot of practice! It sounds like you’re coming along well, now – great!

  3. I have just come across your blog and have enjoyed going back through the archives – finding especially fascinating your descriptions of attending RSN courses and the various craft fairs. My work in a library and as a parish priest’s wife mean I never get away to attend these events, so your blog is a real bonus. Thank you. Perhaps you might like to have a look at my blog (here
    My work is quite different from yours but I thought you might enjoy this
    Happy sewing.

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